Houston-based Afrobeats dancer and choreographer Kemi OG and principal photographer Shardé Chapman teamed up for a dance art installation called “Moments Project” addressing the complexities of Houston’s Black diaspora experience.
Kemi remembers the tension between both communities during the George Floyd protests and the End SARS protest against police brutality in Nigeria. Both historic events happened months apart from each other, and for similar causes on two different continents.
“We’ve been talking about diaspora wars for a long time and maybe we need to talk about it again because when Africans reached out to African Americans to support the movement, there was some support, but there were some not-so-nice responses too,” Kemi said. “So, I pulled stories from the community on both sides and used that to push the project.”
She recalled a time in high school when she experienced painful non-verbal cues from her fellow peers that were insensitive to her as an African woman.
“I went to a predominantly white [high school]. I was one of a few African Black people. I felt like I wasn’t really understood or felt accepted anywhere and it stung, she explained.” “When I finally got to college, I met others who felt the same way I did.”
Instead of lashing out in anger, Kemi channeled her gifts as creative and launched the Moments Project, a multi-phasic creative project that presents unique works of multimedia art and performance highlighting the diversity of contemporary African art and culture, the stories of local communities of color, and local artists of color with their unique perspectives on life and social issues across the globe.
The project merges Afro dance with technology and other art forms to explore the challenges and internal dialogue of what it means to be Black, female, and influenced by multiple cultures.
The latest phase of the project is an online exhibition of photographs called “Interference by Shardé Chapman, which went live on Dec. 1. It was the second phase of the Moments Project’s dance film called “Interference: A Tale of 2 Black Experiences,” which launched in October 2020.
“This ended up being a day-long project. My job was to create a companion photo series to display the project from another angle, Chapman said. “As the project was being filmed, I was taking pictures. I creatively interpret what I saw in the dance project.”
Chapman notes that the episodic moments will show the viewers what it means to “live in America with Black skin.” It will showcase examples of what it means to be an African immigrant, being first or second-generation born American, and how these worlds intersect.
“I’m African American and I’ve learned about myself through this project. I understand the importance of representation, we need more accurate depictions of these Black experiences on display. We need to teach compassion toward actively understanding different aspects of being Black in America.”
Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org